Kim Jong-un is variously seen as a fantasy-sodden rattler of sabers or a mad and dangerous threat to global peace.
Whichever more closely approximates the truth, the world is watching North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile quest ever more uneasily.
And on May 14, the pariah state embarked on its most successful missile test yet:
The Hwasong-12 Missile reached an altitude of 1,312 miles and travelled a distance of 489 miles, North Korean state media said. It added that the missile is capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead.
The entirety of South Korea lies within that 489 mile circle, as shown on our map. And the population of the Chinese cities named in that circle on the map alone is more than 78 million.
Given the high altitude reached and the estimated 30-minute flight time, the Union of Concerned Scientists has warned that the same rocket flown on a standard trajectory could reach a distance of 2,800 miles.
Even if that is a wild overestimate, an enormous population lives within just 500–1,000 miles of Pyongyang, including more than 160 million residents of the named Chinese cities on our map—and most of the population of Japan.
As of June 13, North Korea has launched 16 missiles in 10 tests this year alone. That’s compared to a total of 24 in 2016 and 15 in 2014.
Kim Jung-un has tested a total of 82 missiles in his six year reign, a striking increase over Kim Jong-il’s 16 in 17 years, and Kim Il-sung’s 15 in 10 years.
However, the country’s true progress in developing a nuclear missile capable of striking the US remains characteristically unclear.